I have been telling photographers for years to always have at least three copies of your images/videos. This also applies to traveling photographers. I have also said for many years that “there are two types of computer users: those who have lost data and those who will.” With this in mind you would probably think that I’d be one of the last people to lose some of my precious images/video, but that’s exactly what happened. I didn’t follow my own advice and it’s no one’s fault but my own. I can’t blame the hardware. I can’t blame anyone else. It was all me. I knew better!
I’m telling you my sad story so that hopefully it won’t happen to you.
Hey everyone! I’m back from Iceland and as usual I learned a lot and had a blast. With that said there are a lot of questions that come up when ever I do a photographic excursion and this trip was no different. The questions started even before I left about the equipment I was taking and in some cases why I wasn’t taking more? As promised here is the list of gear I took based on the load out pic above.
Targus laptop rolling backpack. I initially bought this for Photoshop World so that I would have to carry my heavy backpack back and forth. For the Iceland trip it served as a secondary equipment bag.
WD My Passport Wireless 2TB HD. This drive is a lifesaver as it allows you to backup your SD cards without having to use a computer. It has a lithium ION rechargeable battery and you can just plug your SD cards in and they automatically copy to the drive.
As I head out this week on another Iceland adventure I started to layout the gear that I plan on taking. I’m excited to document this trip with my new DJI Mavic Pro drone, but as usual I will have my iPhone 7 Plus, iPad Pro and 360° cameras. All of these devices need to be charged. For the Mavic it’s not much of an issue as I have multiple batteries, but for the smaller devices with built-in batteries I need to be able to charge them when I’m not near an outlet. That’s why I’ve standardized on Anker batteries (and cables). I put this short video together highlighting my three favorite batteries:
5 Ways to Keep Your Mobile Devices Charged When You Travel
I use the Anker PowerCore 20100 as the battery that’s always in my bag. This ultra high capacity battery can charge my smartphone and tablet multiple times before needing to be recharged. I can usually get a few days of use out of it before needing to recharge the battery itself. So if I forget to charge it at night it’s not the end of the world. Next up…
Last year I standardized on Anker for all my mobile device charging needs. Their products are top notch and so far their Lightning cables have outlasted all other brands I’ve tried. I’ve used several of their backup batteries, but this new one is a great idea! Normally you’d carry a phone charger when you travel so that you could charge your phone at night or when you’re going to be in one spot for a while. You’d probably carry a backup battery too. This way you could charge your smartphone ore tablet on the go when you’re not near a plug. Now imagine if you could have one portable charger that served both purposes.
The NEW Anker PowerCore Fusion 5000 replaces two things in my backpack
If you are out and about these days then chances are you in need of charging your smartphone, tablet and other mobile devices. I travel for a living so I figured I would share the four ways that I keep everything charged when I’m on the go:
The external battery that’s in my pocket
The 2nd Gen Anker Astro 6400 mAh is a great external battery to keep on your person. I love it because it has a smooth surface with no buttons to accidentally get pressed while it’s on my pocket. It change charge my iPhone 6 Plus up to 1.5 times.
I’m headed back to Atlanta from Amsterdam today. The flight time is just over 9 hours. I did my usual downloads from my TiVo DVR the night before so that I would have some shows to watch and of course I have my MacBook Pro so that I can get some writing done. The last thing I expected on this Delta flight was to have WiFi internet all the way home! Sure I get my hopes up each time I board an international flight by looking for the familiar WiFi stickers found on 99% of all Delta domestic flights and like always there were no stickers present on this flight. However, once we got up to 10,000 feet I noticed that my phone was asking me to login to my corporate IPASS account (a roaming partner of Gogo). I just figured someone on the plane was faking a Gogo hotspot. However, it worked! I was blown away because I figured I wouldn’t see this until at least 2016. I asked the flight attendant just to make sure and she confirmed that “some” planes have it now and that we were “lucky” today. Lucky indeed!
So what does it cost to enjoy this international benefit? Since I have a corporate plan from work that covers Gogo InFlight WiFi I didn’t even think that about a cost difference at first, but as I started writing this I figured my readers would want to know. I went back to the regular logon page and the prices are high indeed. $19.95 for one hour and $39.95 for the whole flight. While I appreciate this being a work perk, I gotta say that I would gladly pay $39.95 for WiFi on this 9 hour flight. The amount of stuff that I can get done (including this blog post) is worth it to me. The next question is how fast is it? Gogo inlfight wifi in the states uses a celluar system (plane to ground) and from I can see it’s based on 3G technology. When it first came out the speeds were decent, but lately they have been slow to almost unusable. Still slow is better than nothing, so I use it all the time.
Since connecting to the ground over the ocean is not feasible, any plane offering international service requires satellite connections instead. One of the first thing I did was run 4 consecutive speed tests to get an average speed and while it’s not screaming fast, it’s faster than the domestic service. I’ll take it!
The Bottom Line
I remember wishing for WiFi on long haul flights for years. It almost brings a tear to my eyes to see it finally making its way into my life and I commend Delta for making these investments to make air travel a little less painful.
The good folks over a shotkit.com recently featured me on their site and the contents of my camera bag. You can see all the other photography gear that I use here. People are always asking what kind of gear I shoot with. On the flip side of that coin when I’m out on tour people are always asking about the gear I use on stage to do my presentations. So I thought it was time for a “What’s in my bag?” update. My backpack weighs a ton. Every now and then I take everything out and try to only put back in the things that I’m using on a regular basis. That time has come again and this past weekend while everything was out I decided to photograph it and detail it here:
Let’s start with the bag itself. My FAVORITE computer backpack is the Tumi Alpha T-Pass. This backpack has really held up well with the load I put on it and shows no signs of wear. I was going through backpacks about once a year before this one. While it’s more expensive than I’m used to, it’s been worth it thus far. Also can beat the T-Pass feature for TSA checks at the airport. It unzips in half so that you don’t have to take out your laptop. Get it here.
I shoot on the road and that means I need to retouch on the road. I couldn’t imagine retouching a picture in Photoshop without my Wacom Intuos Pro Small tablet. Get it here.
In addition to the regular pen that comes with the Intuos Pro I have the Wacom 6D Art Pen for drawing in Illustrator. Get it here.
My favorite international travel adapter. It covers most countries and has a smart design. Get it here.
Nikon WU-1b Wireless Mobile Adapter. This allows me to transfer images from my Nikon D600/D610 to my iPhone or iPad wirelessly. Get it here.
Adobe Ink & Slide – Pressure sensitive pen and digital ruler for drawing on the iPad. Get it here.
Nikon ME-1 Stereo Micophone – You can’t have good video without good audio. The built-in microphone just doesn’t cut it. Therefore I use this one for those on the go interviews and recordings. Get it here.
iPod touch – Although I have an iPhone and an iPad. I still prefer having a dedicated device on stage to play music and to run my presentation timer app. I’m usually using the iPhone and iPad in my demos. This way I have a dedicated device to do the tasks I need. Get it here.
Oops – I left out #10. So let’s move on to number 11. 🙂
Nikon 28-300mm lens. This is my main travel lens and while I do have better lenses, this one covers a nice range and it has a good quality. Perfect for travel. Get it here.
I have to charge all these devices. My main cables are the 6 foot Lightning cable by Apple – Get it here and the nice and short Lightning cable by CableJive. Get it here.
iPad Air with Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Folio. I use my iPad Air all the time and now on stage to demo mobile apps. Get it here. I couldn’t imagine not having my Logitech ultrathin Keyboard Folio. Get it here.
RavPower Battery – Sometimes my iPhone doesn’t make it through a long day of heavy use without another charge. I’m not always near an outlet. This RAVpower Battery can easily charge it twice. Get it here.
I gave up fighting for additional outlets in hotel rooms and airports. Now I just bring this ultra compact 3 outlet powerstrip with me. Get it here.
Charge 5 USB Devices at Once (including 2 tablets) with this slick 40w Anker 5 port charger. Get it here.
Bose QuietComfort 20i Noise Cancelling Headphones. These need no explanation other than I gave up the full size pair for these because they do just as good of a job and take up a fraction of the space in my bag. Get them here.
If I rent a car I want to be able to charge my iPhone and possible my iPad while I drive. This car charger gives me 4.2 Amps on BOTH USB ports. Get it here.
Verizon 4G LTE Hotspot. I’m grandfathered into an unlimited data plan with AT&T on my iPhone and the only way to get the mobile hotspot feature on my phone is to give up that plan. I refuse to do that, so I have a separate hotspot to give me WiFi access in places where there is none or hotels where their internet is soooo slow that it’s unusable. Get it here.
Apple Magic Mouse. It’s low profile, bluetooth, has a touch pad on it for smooth scrolling and gestures. It works. Get it here.
Apple AirPort Express. I love creating my own WiFi network. This makes it easier to share a single connection on stage or in a hotel room and easily allows all my devices to talk to each other on the same subnet. Get it here.
Apple MacBook Pro 15″ Retina Display Mid 2014 – This is probably the most important item in my bag. It’s my main work computer and it has enough power to handle everything I do. Get it here. The skin on top is a custom skin from Gelaskins. Make yours here.
Wacom Bamboo Stylus Pen for writing and digital signatures on mobile devices. Get it here.
Not Pictured (forgot that these items were on my desk when I cleaned out my bag)!
Charging USB devices at home is no big deal as I have charges around the studio, office, bedroom, etc. and even USB wall plates. However, on the road it’s bit more challenging as there are limited AC outlets in hotels and on stage during presentations. Once again I sought out a USB charger that could not only charge multiple devices, but also charge at least 2 iPads, which require a little more juice (2.1A). My search led me to the Anker® 25W 5-Port Family-Sized Desktop USB Charger Travel Power Adapter. This relatively small charger can handle charging up to 5 of your USB devices including 2 iPads at full speed. While I don’t travel with 2 iPads, I do want to be able to charge one iPad and my iPhone at the faster 2.1A speed as well as 2-3 other devices at the same time. If you’re an Android user you’ll even have a dedicated Samsung Tab port as well. Even if you don’t have the specific devices labeled on each port you can charge ANY 5 USB devices at the same time. Speaking of labeled ports that’s another thing I love about this charger. Many of the smaller chargers that have only 2 ports with one of them being high speed don’t always label which one in particular is the high speed one. Lastly another reason I really like this model over previous multiple port chargers that I’ve used is that it has a regular detachable AC cord on the other end with a decent length of 5 feet. This means that I can plug in the one cord into a power strip on stage or outlet behind a night stand and put the charger itself on the table top to connect all the cords too. I used it in LA this week at my event and it worked perfectly and to my surprise it also didn’t get warm to the touch like other charger tend to do.
People are always asking me about backup strategies and while I usually discuss my home/studio backups I rarely discuss my “on the road” backups. My MacBook Pro has a 768GB SSD internal drive. While SSDs tend to be more reliable than old school rotating platters, I’m still as paranoid as I’ve always been. I don’t back it up any less than I did before SSD. I’ve had two major data scares while traveling on business. The 1st was on a trip to Toronto several years ago to do a seminar. I was the main/only presenter and I had an audience of about 400 people. My presentation was going to start at 10AM and I was in the hotel connected to the event hall. I woke up that morning and did some work on my laptop before heading over to the hall. I closed my laptop and headed over giving myself just enough time to get there and plug in to the projector. I got there, plugged in and opened my laptop to a “blue screen”. I immediately thought “oh my God, if this thing doesn’t come up I’m screwed!” Although I had my files and fonts on a drive at the time and I could have used a colleague’s computer it would have taken no less than 30 minutes to get everything loaded and setup. It could have easily taken an hour or more if they didn’t have the right applications loaded. Luckily everything came back after a forced reboot. But what if it hadn’t?
After my experience above in Toronto I realized that simply having a backup of the data was not good enough. I need to be able to be up and running in 5 minutes or less in the event of a total drive failure. From that day forward I started carrying an external portable hard drive that was an exact clone of my internal drive. I update this clone before heading out on each trip. I use SuperDuper!, which is a fantastic utility to clone your drive from one to another. In the case of a blue screen or total drive failure I could plug in the clone backup drive and reboot directly from that drive. Since it’s a recent clone it would have all of my applications and demo/data files. Continue reading “Why I Carry 3 Portable Hard Drives When I Travel”
The more I travel, the more I see people using iPads (and to a much smaller degree Android tablets) in lieu of laptops. This is especially true on planes.
In some cases I myself have gone on short trips and used just my iPad instead of my laptop. With more and more useful iPad Apps coming to market each day, I find that I don’t require a laptop nearly as much as I used to for day to day communications and social media activities. The iPad may never replace my need for a “work” laptop, but it certainly goes a long way towards reducing that need for things like email, web, expense reports, blogging, etc. That being the case I can see times where carrying just my iPad in my laptop bag is overkill.
Skooba Design has the answer with their New Skooba Tablet Messenger v.3
This new bag is designed from the ground up to be a tablet bag, not a laptop bag. It has a special pocket inside for a 10″ tablet.
It has plenty of room for the tablet and accessories such as a charger, sync cables, headphones, keyboard, Jambox speaker, etc. I was also pleased to see that it was large enough to also accomodate a 13″ MacBook Air. This makes it a great bag for me because I can really go light with just the iPad or if I think I may need a computer, I can still bring my MacBook Air without totally weighing it down. Since most TSA checkpoints don’t require that you remove your tablet from your bag, you can just send the whole bag through the x-ray machine.
I would say the only disadvantage that this bag has over my Skooba TSA Friendly Backpack is that it’s not large enough to carry my DSLR, but that’s OK because it’s so small that I can still carry a small camera bag and fit both under the seat in front of me.
Can you get by with just an iPad on a trip?
This question comes up all the time and my buddy Calvin Carson had a great suggestion: Before going on your trip, try using just your iPad for a day or two while you’re still at home. Do the same things that you would do on your trip. Then you’ll have a pretty good idea of whether or not you can get by without your laptop.